In a conventional protein downstream processing (DSP) scheme, chromatography is the single most expensive step. Despite being highly effective, it often has a low process throughput due to its semibatch nature, sometimes with nonreproducible results and relatively complex process development. Hence, more work is required to develop alternative purification methods that are more cost-effective, but exhibiting nearly comparable performance. In recent years, surfactant precipitation has been heralded as a promising new method for primary protein recovery that meets these criteria and is a simple and cost-effective method that purifies and concentrates. The method requires the direct addition of a surfactant to a complex solution (e.g. a fermentation broth) containing the protein of interest, where the final surfactant concentration is maintained below its critical micelle concentration (CMC) in order to allow for electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions between the surfactant and the target protein. An insoluble (hydrophobic) protein-surfactant complex is formed and backextraction of the target protein from the precipitate into a new aqueous phase is then carried out using either solvent extraction, or addition of a counter-ionic surfactant. Importantly, as highlighted by past researchers, the recovered proteins maintain their activity and structural integrity, as determined by circular dichroism (CD). In this review, various aspects of surfactant precipitation with respect to its general methodology and process mechanism, system parameters influencing performance, protein recovery, process selectivity and process advantages will be highlighted.
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Original Publication Date: 04/21/17